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How to digitalize music tapes in lossless quality?

15 Replies, 6225 Views

Hello guys!

I need to digitalize some old analog music tapes (some audio dramas), but I have no clue on how to do that to obtain the best possible quality.
I know there are some cheap digitalizer you can buy from Amazon or someplace else, but the record quality is absolute crap, in my opinion... they are just compressed mp3 files.

Do you have any idea how I can achieve the best possible quality, preferable in a lossless format? I think the best way would be to buy an old tape deck... but then what? Which connection setup is needed? And which software transfers the input sound in lossless format?

I hope anyone here has some experiences on this field and could help me out Smile

Also known as Roobyoo
(This post was last modified: 2018-02-24, 12:34 PM by Atreyo.)
Hi Roobee.

I used an old Technics tape deck connected to a Soundblaster X FI sound card.
The sound card had a front panel breakout box with a phono connection on it.
I also used the bundled software to capture as it had a mode/suite exactly for this.

I turned off Dolby NR on the tape deck and used Adobe Audition (Or Premiere) to clean up the audio for purpose Smile
You mean cassettes? Here's a guide that was written by a what.cd user:


I have some cassettes that I would like to rip myself, but I'm still on a lookout for a good quality deck for cheap. Finding one seems to be the hardest part - most cassette decks from the 90s seem to be much lower quality than the 80s ones, so you pretty much have to find a 30+ years old mechanical device that is still in good condition. As to which particular models are good, I don't really know, I've only seen some recommendations on Polish audiophile forums, so your best bet would be searching through German ones, and then checking ebay for those models.
@CSchmidlapp: Thank you, I think I will try this way of yours Smile

@Feallan: Yes exactly, cassettes Big Grin Thank you for the guide! It is much more detailled than the others I found on the web. I can borrow an "old" tape deck from my father, but most likely it will be one from the beginning of the 90s. I'm going to do some tests with it before I'm going on the hunt for an older one.
Also known as Roobyoo
(This post was last modified: 2018-02-24, 03:33 PM by Atreyo.)
About recorders: best maker are Nakamichi (hi-end, I *guess* could be found relatively cheap nowadays), Tascam/Teac; Technics and Pioneer were not bad, too. Can't remember models, but 90s one were good as well, if not better, than 80s ones.

Features you would like to get: Dolby B, C (and, possibly, S), triple head, adjustable bias; if I'll remember something more, I'll comment further. Wink
Sadly my projects are lost due to an HDD crash... Sad
Fundamental Collection | Vimeo channel | My blog
If your tapes have Dolby NR, definitely get one that has it. Afaik there is no software that can mimic Dolby NR decoding, at least not the more advanced types (I remember trying to find one that can decode the cinema-level Dolby NR - no luck!)

Personally I would say also get a decent audio interface with good ADCs. A consumer level soundcard may give decent results, but a proper audio interface will truly give you pristine quality with a great Signal-to-Noise ratio. It's also a good investment, as you can use these things in a million different contexts. These things can record up to 192kHz in 24bit lossless with a quality that actually justifies doing so. (Though 192 kHz for prerecorded tapes would be rather ridiculous)
(This post was last modified: 2018-02-24, 05:52 PM by TomArrow.)
But I'd go with a great cassette recorder and a built-in sound card (that are pretty decent to capture low quality audio, as cassette), than cheap cassette recorder and an hi-end sound card. Of course, if possible, I'd get best of them! Happy
Sadly my projects are lost due to an HDD crash... Sad
Fundamental Collection | Vimeo channel | My blog
Tom, the Dolby SR noise reduction of which you speak is hardware only. The cards will come up on ebay from time to time. You can only apply SR noise reduction to SR encoded material though.
@spoRv Fair.

@zoidberg Yep, I know. So far, anyway. Someday someone may create a software decoder, maybe with the help of machine learning. Either way, with one, we could properly process all those 35mm optical audio tracks that were scanned (I am assuming they weren't SR-decoded by the scanners). Sadly the SR hardware decoders are beyond my budget currently.
I don't know enough about the process to know if that would work. It would be pretty sweet though if it did.

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